Groundbreaking factory train to install electrification to Newbury
A factory on rails - the first of its kind to be used on Britain's railways - will slash years off the time it will take to electrify the line through West Berkshire.
This 23-vehicle train, in effect several trains in one, will work overnight, building the railway electrical infrastructure as it goes.
Project director for Network Rail, Western and Wales, Robbie Burns, said: "Electrifying the Great Western is a big challenge but the benefits for passengers and the wider economy will be equally huge. Electric trains are more reliable, cleaner, accelerate faster and use less energy. Their fuel cost is 45 % lower than diesel trains, and they are also cheaper to maintain.
"But electrifying such a long stretch of line in such a short timeframe, while also making sure passengers can still take trains to where they want to go, is a challenge we need new technology to meet.
"The factory train will allow us to work overnight, when the network is less busy, and will also mean we can keep trains running. It's a step change in the way we work in the UK and we are looking forward to starting in 2014."
Operating six nights a week, the £40m HOPS will do its work after dark, with adjacent lines open for business at speed - if not maximum speed - aiming to sink up to 30 piles per shift. This equates to the usual length of one stretch of conductor wire - between 1,200 and 1,500m.
Electrifying the Great Western using the HOPS will be a much more efficient process than methods used in this country in the past, with work able to be carried out while trains are still running.
Without it, the work would need to be undertaken at weekends, with disruptive line closures. It is intended to have electric trains running to Newbury by 2016.
This must be the one shown on TV a few months ago! Nice to know it's coming our way, which means electrification is really on its way.